Two popular greeting card expressions in pioneer times read: “May there be just enough clouds in your life to cause a glorious sunset” and “As sure as the grass grows round the stump, you are my darling sugar lump.”

Pioneers could rarely afford the fancy greeting cards of the time, so they made their own. Paper was scarce, expensive, and never wasted. Paper that had been written on and was no longer needed was often used for projects. You can make lovely valentines using these old-fashioned methods of decorating.


Rubbings were traditionally made of gravestones but were also used to transfer a fancy design to paper. To make a rubbing, you will need: dark-colored crayons or colored pencils, lightweight paper,* tape, and a patterned surface.

  1. Peel off the paper from the crayons and break them in half, or sharpen the colored pencils.

  2. Fold the paper to make a card, then place the section you want decorated over a textured surface and secure it with tape. It can be a book cover, coin, fossil, silverware, medal, key, or something else.

  3. Rub the crayon on the paper to transfer the design. Try using different color crayons for different parts of the design.

  4. Write a greeting on your card.

Potato Stamp

To make a potato stamp, you will need: a potato, a paper towel, a pencil, a knife, an ink pad or watercolor markers, and a piece of paper. Note: Because a knife is needed to cut the potato, cutting should be done by older children or adults.

  1. With adult assistance, cut the potato in half.

  2. Wipe the cut side of the potato with the paper towel, then draw a heart on it. The larger the heart, the easier it will be to cut around.

  3. Have an adult trace the shape of the heart with a knife. Then have him or her carve out the shape so that the heart is 1/4″ (6 mm) above the rest of the potato.

  4. Press the heart onto the ink pad, or color it with a marker, then stamp the paper. Try making different-shaped stamps.

Illustrated by Shauna Mooney Kawasaki

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  • You can make the card whatever size you wish.